Do you remember when you had to pay extra to have a radio in a car at all? Perhaps that’s too far in the dim, misty past. Do you remember when CD players were an upgrade, or when pickup trucks only came with a bench seat? Things have changed a lot in the automotive industry over time, and that evolution is not only continuing, but it is accelerating.
New features debut on top of new features at an ever-increasing pace as automakers try to keep up with consumer expectations and demands. Of course, that’s good news for car buyers, as they have their choice of vehicles packed with innovative features and technology. The current crop of new models hitting the market at the end of 2018 is a prime example of this. What are some of the newest car features to debut?
To be clear, rearview cameras have been around for a very long time. However, they have finally become standard equipment on all new models being sold in the United States. That means you no longer have to pay more for this important safety technology.
ADAS, or advanced driver assistance systems, have likewise been around for a very long time. However, they’re becoming more and more capable as time passes. For instance, some of the higher-end European imports now feature almost automated driving, including technology like automatic steering avoidance, emergency stop assistance, and more. This technology is all about making driving safer and more comfortable, but the trend is definitely toward more automation, which is not surprising given the international push toward driverless car technology.
Cadillac (GM, actually) debuted a new cruise control system that lets drivers go hands-free on certain roadways. Dubbed the Super Cruise system, it combines the powers of onboard cameras and sensors with GPS technology and advanced mapping to allow automated driving on over 130,000 different roadways in the United States. However, GM does state the drivers must remain alert while the system is activated so that they can take control in the event something goes wrong.
Vehicle to Vehicle Communication
This might sound like something out of science fiction, but it is now possible for some vehicles to communicate with one another. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications will play a larger and larger role, particularly as the IoT begins to include things like stop lights in urban areas. This is yet another sign of the impending autonomous shift, as fully autonomous cars will need to communicate with each other and with the infrastructure around them.
Again, Bluetooth is not a new technology. It has been part of our lives for quite some time at this point, but it has not been available in all vehicles yet. It still hasn’t reached that point, but the number of vehicles with embedded Bluetooth capabilities is growing very quickly as consumers begin to appreciate the capabilities on offer, and laws around the US change to allow only hands-free devices to be used while driving. Automakers are taking this connectivity to new levels, too, by debuting vehicle-specific smartphone apps, such as the Chevy Bolt Bluetooth app. It allows owners to stay connected to their vehicles at all times, monitoring things like cabin temperature, battery level, and more.
There are quite a few changes to automobile design that focus on making our lives easier. One excellent example is the grocery bag holder that Volvo recently debuted. Essentially, this is a fold-up section in the trunk that is designed to carefully hold your grocery bags while you are in motion, preventing them from tipping over and spilling their contents.
Gauges, dials and other controls are important for drivers. They provide access to critical information like fuel in the tank, engine temperature, speed, engine RPM, oil pressure, and the like. In the past, this information was delivered through analog gauges and dials, but that is slowly starting to change. Ford’s most recent Mustang GT featured an all-digital gauge cluster. Digital technology is nothing new, but this innovation actually allows drivers to customize the layout and design of the gauge cluster, as well as what information is actually displayed. That’s a big step forward in terms of allowing consumers to personalize their cars in a way that goes beyond mere aesthetics.
Rear Seat Reminder
The spate of heat-related deaths involving children left in hot cars has spurred automakers to take action. Buick has one of the most interesting systems in this regard. Dubbed the rear seat reminder, it involves the car’s computer tracking which doors you open before cranking the engine. If you open the rear door before driving, and do not open it again when you shut the engine off, the car will sound an audible reminder alerting you to check the back. A visual reminder is also displayed in the center of the speedometer, and must be manually dismissed by the driver to make it go away.
Smart technology is all around us today, and our cars are no exception. Kia puts that fact front and center with the company’s new smart mode. Essentially, this allows the car to adjust performance based on how you are driving at the moment. For instance, if you’re being light on the pedal and easy on the brakes, the car will shift into eco mode. However, if you floor it or slam your brakes on hard, the computer will put the car into sport mode.
These are just a few of the latest features to debut on new cars. There are plenty of others. For instance, Mercedes introduced an in-car fragrance system (yes, they really did), and other companies are working on automatic, driverless parking technology. Remote folding seats, premium, theater-quality sound systems, and on-board inductive charging for smart phones are other examples.